Archive for the ‘British Columbia’ Category

More wet and windy coast

19 November 2009

Vancouver November 18. Got the truck back this AM and bought a digital voice recorder and six small bottles of ice wine. Also had the muffler and tailpipes replaced this afternoon. Not bad, the originals lasted 20 years, so I can’t complain about having to replace them. So there, all you FoundOnRoadDead fans! (or boy sheep fans, although I do have one waiting for me in Whitehorse)

Left Ariel’s place around 4PM, tanked up at a Shell on Knight Street and got stuck in Vancouver traffic. Very high winds and rain led to a number of ferries being cancelled. Got to the border around 5:15. The border guard was not very friendly and commented “There are economists in Whitehorse?” after I answered his question about what kind of work I do. Anyway, he let me go through no problem, didn’t even look in my camper in case it was chocko-blocko full of wetback terrorists, which is what Canadian customs usually do. Got on the I-5 and I had forgotten how easy driving is on those expressways.

I thought I would make it to Seattle by 7:30 or so, but then decided I wanted the cozy feeling of staying in the camper rather than a motel. I thought of what to have for supper as I had given away all my fresh food to Ariel, but decided on canned soup. I found a sign for Wenberg State Park about 10 miles from the I-5 north of Everett. I figure I’m only about half an hour from Seattle, so I will visit tomorrow & stock up on fresh foods from the Pike Street market.

My umbrella is falling apart, so I’ll have to get one tomorrow and figure out how to use the voice recorder I got at the Metrotown Source store.

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Rockies, Prairies, Cariboo and the Wet Coast

17 November 2009

I am writing this in Vancouver on Tuesday the 17th.

November 13 – More bison , caribou and two moose (meese??)

Liard Hot Springs

Liard Hot Springs

Liard Hot Springs 'A' Pool

Woke up around 7AM after a pretty good night’s sleep. Only got up a couple of times to pee; it’s amazing how much urine a person can produce when it’s cold outside. (is this oversharing?) I had to go to the outhouse and it was pretty cold out. One of these days I have to figure out how to use the portable shitter I bought at Crappy Tire. When I worked at Yukon Housing Corporation in the early 1990s, I used to say that our mission was to ensure everyone had a warm place to shit. I got that expression from Earl Butz, Reagan’s Secretary of Agriculture, who made some racist comment, but I always thought that wanting a warm place to shit was a pretty common human yearning. When I left Yukon Housing in 1993, the other employees gave me a toilet seat signed by everyone and emblazoned with the expression.

Anyway, I left the Hot Springs Park around 8:45 after washing the dishes. At the exit of the park there was this sign:

No shit Sherlock. The park is right neat the bridge across the Liard River, which flows into the Mackenzie, North America’s longest river despite what they teach in US schools. The Liard plateau, through which the river flows separates the northern end of the Rocky Mountains from the Mackenzie Mountains that form a large part of the border between the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. This picture shows the extreme northern end of the Rockies.

More bison and caribou along the road. At Toad River, I stopped for a coffee, bought a t-shirt and finally installed the GPS, which ended up being a lot simpler than I thought it would be. What is interesting about the GPS is that it gives the elevation. I realized that the amount of snow on the road was a function of the elevation. The road ended up completely dry at Fort Nelson up to Prophet River. Elevation was in the 600 metre range. Beyond Prophet River, the road climbs into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, up to about 1,200 metres at the summit where the lake was frozen.

I finally did see a couple of moose crossing the road.

Moose

Moose

Then gradually down to the northwestern end of the prairies. By Wonowon (at mile 101 on the Alaska highway :-0) the road was dry again. Reached Fort St. John at 7:30 and decided to stay in a hotel rather than the camper. I had supper at a pretty bad Chinese restaurant.

Caribou

Caribou

November 14: Prairies, Pine Pass blizzard and Cariboo but no caribou

Mile "0" Alaska Highway

Mile "0" Alaska Highway

After breakfast, I headed to Dawson Creek at the southern end of the Alaska Highway. Took a picture, gassed up and got a BC accommodations guide at the museum/tourist information centre.I must be getting old as many of the “artifacts” in the museum were things I grew up with.

Dawson Creek grain elevator

Dawson Creek grain elevator

Dawson Creek (and Fort St. John) are at the northwestern end of the Great Plains. Although they are politically part of British Columbia, they are much closer to Alberta culturally and economically: gas producing cattle and canola country that voted for the Reform party, Canada’s wannabe Republicans.

From Dawson Creek, it got extremely windy and by the time I reached the Rockies, it started snowing.

Pine Pass blizzard

Pine Pass blizzard

Went over the Pine Pass in a blizzard and reached Prince George at 4:30 two hours later than I had originally estimated in the sunny prairies. I had supper at an Indian restaurant: saag panner (creamy spinach & potatoes in yogurt) which I had really liked a few years ago last time in PG. Went back on the road first to Quesnel and then to Williams Lake where I took another hotel room & bought a bottle of Beaujolais. Made a few calls using Skype: pretty cool and only 2 cents a minute for calls to North American phone numbers (Skype to Skype calls are free).

Quesnel and Williams Lake are in the Cariboo region, where there were a number of gold rushes in the 1800s, most of them bigger than the Klondike but little remembered as they did not have Jack London, Robert Service, Mounties, and Charlie Chaplin. No caribou left in the Cariboo, but lots of deer crossing signs. However, I only saw two dead deer on the side of the road providing a feast to the ravens.

November 15: Cariboo, semi desert and the Fraser Canyon and the Wet Coast

After phone conversations with Marilyn, Rick, Louise and Ariel, I headed out around 9:30. Went through the Cariboo, then the Fraser Valley around 100 Mile House where I stopped for Lunch. Nice sunny weather in the semi desert area. As I wound down the Fraser Canyon, it became progressively wetter so that by Yale, it pouring rain. My driver’s side wiper got screwed up and the metal was scraping against the windshield. I finally stopped and managed to fix it. I resolved to buy some new ones in Vancouver.

Got to Vancouver around 5;30 & reached Ariel & Jacob’s place. Chicken cacciatore pasta for supper. Slept in the camper that night as Rick, Ariel’s father, had priority.

Tallulah, Rick and Ariel

It was raining like crazy all night and the skylight in the camper was leaking. Luckily I was no under it like Malcolm & Rick on previous moose hunting trips. Couple of whiners. 🙂

Some of you might wonder why I went to Vancouver rather than heading more directly to Mexico via inland provinces and states (e.g. Alberta, Montana & south through Texas). Well there are a few reasons: first, I need an international Drivers License, which, as a Yukoner, I can only get from the BCAA. Second, I want to go to Oregon to check out the Pinot Noirs in the Willamette valley. My all time favourite wines are red Burgundies, especially from Gevrey-Chambertin (the original Pinot noirs). I want to see if Oregon wines come anywhere close. Third, I would like to go to Fort Bragg at the College of the Redwoods (probably North America’s prime woodworking school founded by Krenov) where Lymond Hardy is studying. I would also like to visit San Francisco, one of the two US cities I really want to see. (The other is New Orleans.).

Monday, November 16: Frustrating and soaked day in Vancouver.

Raining heavily most of the day; it’s not called the wet coast for nothing. Went to a travel clinic to get my vaccinations (I couldn’t get them in the Yukon because I would have waited until late November as they were too busy with H1N1 flu vaccinations. Unlike the rest of Canada, there was no problem getting flu vaccinations in the Yukon: I had to wait a full two and a half hours on the first day vaccinations became available, an I whined about it – I am in the priority groups as I had a heart attack and I suffer from mild COPD from 40 years of smoking.)

Anyway, they couldn’t vaccinate me right away at the private clinic I went to; I had to make an appointment and Thursday was the first day appointments were available. But they told me I could try calling later to see if there were any cancellations on Tuesday. I went to the BCAA where they told me their Internet connection was down and I would have to come back later or tomorrow, no idea when it would be up again. I also called an RV repair place, but they couldn’t fix the leak that day. I begged and they suggested I could bring the camper in later in the afternoon and they would take a look at it. To soothe myself, I went to Crappy Tire and bought some tire chains, wipers and a spare headlight.

I then brought the truck to the RV place. On the way back, I went to Chapters book store to look for Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries and Theroux’s Patagonia Express (thanks Carl for the suggestion). I bought the Motorcycle Diaries, but there were no copies of Theroux’s book in any Chapters store in Vancouver. I got totally soaked on the way home from the RV place as I forgot my umbrella.

Last night, I took Jacob & Ariel out to Piazza Dario restaurant at the Italian cultural centre. Excellent non-ethnic meal as always.

Tuesday 17th – Vancouver.

Got my shots @ 8:40, then went to BCAA and got my International Drivers Licence, went to Home Despot & bought some screws for the camper hasp/lock and a cheap Black & Decker cordless drill, and then to Crappy Tire for a propane tank fill indicator and a Haines manual for my truck (they had all the others in Whitehorse except for the one I needed. Says something about the popularity of the truck. Or maybe its need for repairs)

Went shopping with Ariel  Jacob and showed her how to make potato gnocchi and ragù. Two bottles of wine between the three of us and I am completing this blog entry, finally.

Hopefully, I will get going tomorrow and stay in some Walmart parking lot in Seattle.

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Departure day: caribou, hotsprings and bison

13 November 2009

Left home at 9:15 after loading the food & last minute stuff and I made it to Liard Hot Springs at 7:35, 657 km.

Early on, I realized my headlights were not working. Checked the fuses & they seemed OK. I got worried & tried to figure out what I would do if I had to drive at night. I would have to drive at night if I wanted to make it to the hot springs as the sun now sets around 4:00 PM, I was going east, and it is an eight-hour drive from Whitehorse in the best conditions. I debated whether I should chance it, but good sense finally prevailed. When I got to Teslin where I gassed up, I decided to get the vehicle checked out in Watson Lake and if I had to stay there if need be instead of going to the Liard Hot Springs.

So I drove on, almost non-stop (except to pee) to Watson Lake. It was extremely windy until pas Watson Lake and the wind sometimes made the truck sway uncomfortably. There were flurries around Whitehorse and through the Cassiar Mountains, although, surprisingly, the road was completely dry east of the mountains. As I reached the Liard Plateau, I started seeing blue sky.

Caribou before Watson Lake

Caribou along the Alaska Highway before Watson Lake

About 20 km before Upper Liard, I saw quite a few (about 6 or seven) woodland caribou by the side of the road. I stopped to take the pictures, and a truck that was on my tail honked at me.

I saw three more caribou just a few kms before Upper Liard, a truck stopped to let them cross the road, but one headed back. I guess they must be suicidal caribou to hang out a few kilometers from a First Nation community. On the other hand, they are probably part of the Finlayson herd and the Kaska people have been doing their best to reestablish the herd over the last ten years or so. So they might have lost their fear of humans. For now anyway.

Caribou crossing Alaska Highway at Upper Liard

Caribou crossing Alaska Highway at Upper Liard

I got the truck lights checked out at Rudy’s in Watson Lake at 3:00PM. I thought I knew exactly what was wrong, and that we would have to go fix the connection to the camper clearance lights under the truck. Well, guess what? The mechanic checked the fuses and one was burnt. After the fuse was replaced, all the lights worked fine, although I might have to replace some of the rear clearance light bulbs.

Past Watson Lake, it soon got dark despite our long northern twilight and my speed went down to 80, then 70 (klicks that is). I did manage to take some pictures of bison before it got too dark. By 5:15 or so I was getting really tired and looked for a place to stop. Just before the Fireside lodge at 5:30, there was a turn-off. I stopped there, turned on the propane heater and tried to take a nap. Although I did not sleep, I did rest so that by 6:30, I was ready to go again.

Bison on Alaska Highway

Bison on Alaska Highway

At Fireside, there was a lit sign that alternated saying “Drive Carefully” and “Buffalo on the road for 90 km”. I tried taking a movie of it, but it did not turn out.

At the hot springs, first things first: grabbed my towel & bathing suit (bathing au naturel is frowned upon, silly Anglo puritanism) and headed for the pools. heavenly after a day’s drive.

Arctic char with garden fresh thyme (actually window box fresh, but whose countin’) and wine for supper, along with Maryel’s foccaccia to mop up the juice and half a bottle of Rosso del Veronese.

I gotta figure out a way of recording my thoughts while I’m on the road. I had a lot of great ideas while driving but I forgot most of them.

PS. Pictures coming later as I forgot the stupid wire to connect the camera to the ‘puter in the truck & I don’t feel like going out again. I am inputting this on Friday night in a hotel room in Fort Saint John, BC.